With stiff competition ahead to retain its hold over the seat, the Congress and NCP have finally realised the need for working together in the city. To ensure victory of the alliance candidate in the Lok Sabha election, the poll campaign will be launched with NCP chief Sharad Pawar holding a rally on March 18, in the presence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre.
“Political workers are geared up for campaigning but the delay in announcement of the party candidate has left the cadre sitting idle and watching the workers of other parties already reaching out to voters. The party has already lost a lot of time and the only way to cover up for the loss is to rope in senior leaders to launch the campaign,” said a local Congress leader.
There is factionalism in the local Congress, with supporters of sitting MP Suresh Kalmadi, who is unlikely to get a ticket this time, airing dissenting notes. Also, Kalmadi’s suspension from the party due to his alleged involvement in the Commonwealth Games scam, has led to emergence of many aspirants for the party ticket, making it difficult for the party to keep the flock together.
On the other hand, there are differences in the Congress-NCP alliance too, with both parties fighting the civic elections independently. “The repercussions of local-level rivalry have been affecting the performance at the higher level. Bringing the senior leaders on one stage could be the only way to make the local cadre work together,” he said.
The damage done to Congress due to the allegations of corruption against Kalmadi has been a concern for the party. A Congress leader said the party had a tough task ahead to improve its image. “In present circumstances, Congress and NCP together have to work hard to retain the seat. The seat has been a bastion of Congress and the party cannot afford to get it out of its hands as it is only the seat out of the total four constituencies in the district that is being contested by Congress,” he said.
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According to the seat-sharing formula worked out by the alliance, the other three seats will be contested by NCP candidates.
The city NCP has decided to extensively campaign for the Lok Sabha polls. Unit chief Vandana Chavan said the party was committed to the alliance and would not keep any stone unturned during the campaigning for the Congress candidate in the city. “The strategy is to set up teams for each electoral ward for the campaign. The NCP will hold small rallies to reach out to voters,” she said, adding that all decisions of the government would be communicated to the public.